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Interview with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney; President Trump Disinvites Philadelphia Eagles Players to White House. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 5, 2018 - 8:00   ET


[08:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: What statement do you think the president is making by disinviting the dozen or so players that were going to go?

MAYOR JIM KENNEY, (D) PHILADELPHIA: I'm going to take my ball and go home basically is what he's saying, is that is unless you kneel to me, unless you pay homage to me as president of the United States I'm going to disinvite you from the people's house. And that's not what the presidency is all about. The presidency is about every common person who looks up to that office and wants to be treated as an equal American. And he does not want to treat people equally. Only the people that support him are the people he considers real Americans.

BERMAN: You think he's asking for homage to him as opposed to certain actions in relation to the National Anthem?

KENNEY: When he had the opportunity to serve his country five times he ducked out. In Philadelphia we have two high schools that gave the ultimate to this country during the Vietnam War. Thomas Edison High School gave up 64 members of their class to their Vietnam War, killed in action, and Father Judge High School gave up 27 of their members of their class killed in action in Vietnam. When he had the opportunity to serve his country for real, his father got him out of it. And I think it's really disingenuous for him to talk about patriotism in any way, shape, or form.

BERMAN: It's interesting. I was talking to Nate Boyer who played in the NFL for a little bit before, and he says we have to stop looking at this as a winning or losing issue and have to figure out a way to come together here. You say the president wouldn't invite the Eagles to come to the White House because they disagreed with him, and frankly there's plenty of evidence of that here. On the other hand, though, do you feel that some of the players, even if they disagree with the president, should have gone to the White House in a show of unity, maybe take the opportunity to make your case directly to the president?

KENNEY: I don't how you can make your case to a child who acts childish, who changes his opinion and his statements every single day, and who, frankly, frightens me more than I was frightened in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War. And the guy is just a scary guy. And I don't -- hopefully by the time he's gone we can recover from this mess, but this is a bad time in our country.

BERMAN: What specifically are you frighten about here?

KENNEY: I'm frightened about the fact that he has his hands on the nuclear codes, that he threatens to annihilate North Korea in the middle of Japan and --

BERMAN: Well, look, and we have heard that before. He's going to meet with Kim Jong-un one week from today, so the hands on the nuclear codes and annihilating North Korea doesn't seem like an imminent issue over the next seven days.

KENNEY: But over the next couple hours that could change.

BERMAN: Specifically in relation to the anthem, though, do you think there is a legitimate discussion to be had about how athletes behave during the National Anthem?

KENNEY: Athletes are American citizens who have the right -- the First Amendment right to express their views. I stand, and I stand when the anthem is played with my hand over my heart, but I'm a privileged white male. There are other people in this country who the issues of this country has affected them differently and they have a right to express their discontent, they have a right to express the fact that they are protesting against certain things, and no one has the right to take that away. And Donald Trump has tried to control the NFL. He's tried to control the thoughts of this country, and it's not working.

BERMAN: In terms of the NFL specifically, do you think politically, you obviously know a lot about politics as well, do you think the president is winning? He thinks he's winning. He told Jerry Jones according to the "New York Times" this is a very winning, strong issue for me. Tell everybody you can't win on this one. This one lifts me.

KENNEY: It's about me, me, me and me, and that's all he thinks about every day. It's not about the country. It's not about the citizens. It's not about what's best for this country. It's about what's best for him, and that's not what the presidency is about.

BERMAN: What message do you think this sends to the Eagles fans who I know -- believe me, I'm a Patriots fans, the Eagles fans who were so excited when the Eagles finally won something?

KENNEY: Well, that's --

BERMAN: I know it was intentionally a low blow. I meant it in good taste. But what does this mean to Eagles fans, without the unnecessary swipe that I just took at the Eagles, what does this mean to Eagles fans?

KENNEY: It means the Eagles players are representative of this city, that they are involved in the community, they are a great high level athletes who have won the Super Bowl after 50 years and won it convincingly. And they are involved in their community in every way shape, and, form, and I'm very proud of them. I know many of them personally and they're just top-notch people, and Donald Trump couldn't put a patch on their rear ends. BERMAN: Do you think Eagles' fans will take this personally?

KENNEY: No, I think Eagles fans understand that our players are individuals who can stand up for themselves and stand up for what they believe in. And that's what this country is about. And Donald Trump with his ways is never going to change that.

[08:05:11] BERMAN: Mayor Jim Kenney, thanks so much for being with us. We do appreciate it. And I can say even now congratulations on your Super Bowl win.

KENNEY: Go birds! Go birds!

BERMAN: He's rubbing it in now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You're a big man, John Berman. Wow, you actually congratulated him.

BERMAN: I congratulated the mayor of Philadelphia. It took me months, but I got there.

CAMEROTA: I know that was painful.

Meanwhile, joining us to talk about all this we have Chris Cillizza, CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris, and Wes Lowery, national reporter for the "Washington Post." OK, so if this is a culture war, Chris Cillizza, that we're in the throes of or that the president is ginning up somehow, what are these sides? Is this freedom of speech as seen in the Super Bowl champions versus the president's version of patriotism without protest?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. I think we are in a culture war that Donald Trump is provoking with actions like this. I think we've seen him do and say things like this before, but I think what this represents is the president of the United States saying you will be patriotic in the way that I define it or you don't get to come.

Couple things. One, it is important to note that this is a house, the White House, that is passed along with Democratic and Republican presidents, not owned by the president. This is the president of the United States saying if you want to come to my golf tournament at Trump International, you have to stand for the National Anthem and put your hand over the heart. This is Donald Trump saying, at the people's house, if you want to come, you have to do patriotism the way I think patriotism should be done.

I know it is impossible for people to do this, but I would suggest to take yourself out of the fact that Donald Trump is a Republican and ask, if you are a supporter of his, is that what you think the right way to handle this issue is? To define patriotism pretty narrowly and then to say if you don't fit that definition, you can't come. You can't be part of something. I'm taking my ball and going home. I would say that is not a place broadly speaking that we want to be as a country.

BERMAN: And remember, it's not because the Eagles kneeled, because they didn't kneel.

CILLIZZA: Correct.

BERMAN: It's not because --

CAMEROTA: And did they stay in the locker room.

BERMAN: They did not stay in the locker room.

CAMEROTA: They did not.

BERMAN: This is because the Eagles disagree with the president of the United States. This is because there are players on that team who have an opinion that he doesn't like. This is to an extent, Wes, policing thought.

WES LOWERY, NATIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Of course. And it's also attempting to bully in this case these athletes into being used as photo ops and political props. As we were -- not to make this even more about Philadelphia, but I think back to the rapper Meek Mill deciding not to have a meeting with Trump that came out a few weeks after he was released from jail, and this idea that some people would say, shouldn't these players show up and shouldn't they express their disagreement to Donald Trump. As the mayor of Philadelphia just said a few moments ago, what is the political gain if you are a player perhaps who disagrees with the president on this, who thinks the president has been insensitive on these anthem protests or on issues of criminal justice reform or policing, what the gain if you genuinely do not believe this is someone who is malleable or who will listen to you?

Here you are, a prominent NFL player and an NFL champion and you are showing up, you're going to end up in a photo next to this person, and Donald Trump is going to be able to say, look, I'm friends with all of these people, or the people support me. The idea of allowing your image to be co-opted by someone you might disagree with politically is not new. We do this with politicians all the time, and politicians are very particular about this, who they appear in photos with, or we pull up a photo from 20 years ago because they're photographed next to someone who is now political toxic.

So the idea that these players would have agency and decide who is house they want to go to a party at I think is a completely reasonable thing. There are a lot of people who I might be nice to in a CNN green room, but I don't want to go to their house and shake their hand and take a photo.

BERMAN: He's talking about you. He's talking about you.

LOWERY: I've got a lot of photos with Chris Cillizza.


CAMEROTA: We had Joe Lockhart on earlier. He not only was the former Clinton press secretary but he was the head of communications for the NFL. And in terms of what the president has -- the way the president has tried to spin this is that America agrees with him because ratings for football games have been down. Joe Lockhart told us that he sees it as more of the fracturing of the viewing audience because we all watch things on our devices and everything, but that ad revenues are up. In other words, Americans love of football is not going away.

[08:10:00] And so Chris Cillizza, is this a winning strategy? We often talk about the president's base, in terms of the country, is this an argument that the president thinks will be winning for him or does football trump lots of things, no pun intended?

CILLIZZA: Every poll that I have seen suggests that a majority, not 90 percent, but a majority of people believe you should stand for the National Anthem. That said, I just -- so, yes, I think there's a group of people that are going to say it's a simple request. We should stand for the National Anthem. Standing for the National Anthem is the least we can do for those that have fought for us.

The more nuanced argument and therefore more difficult to make politically is the very reason that people fought and died for this country is to defend the ability to not stand, to express your views by not standing, by protesting in some way, shape or form. Now, in a political context, zero sum game, black and white, I don't mean racially, I mean there's this and there's this, it's easier to say, I don't know why they can't stand.

So it might work candidly at some level politically. But again, I do think people should take a step back, take it out of the political context, and remember this country, the idea of it, melting pot, 300 plus million people that if we listen to each other and understand that people who disagree with us are not evil or bad, then we can actually get somewhere. That is the American experiment. If we say that that is no longer operable and it is literally my way or the highway, you can come to a celebration but in a public house, but only if you agree with my narrow definition of what it means to love our country, I just think we get ourselves in dicey territory.

BERMAN: And I don't think it should be lost on anyone the president is picking on the anthem issue last night and today, also picking on Attorney General Jeff Sessions today. Why? Who knows? Maybe there's something in the Russia investigation going on we don't know about that he doesn't like, maybe it's because we now know there were lies that were spread by people close to the White House even though, Rudy Giuliani, and I think we want to play this sound right now, doesn't call them lies. He calls them mistakes. Listen to what the mayor told our friend Chris Cuomo overnight.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you think they chose to lie about his role in drafting the statement about Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians?

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Chris, you think maybe somebody could have made a mistake?

CUOMO: That's a lot of mistakes, a lot of mistakes. GIULIANI: Why is it always -- why is it always that somebody -- you think Jay Sekulow lied? Maybe he just got it wrong, like I got a few things wrong in the beginning of the investigation, meaning my knowledge -- this is a complex investigation. First week or so I got a few things wrong, and then it was clarified in a letter, and that's the final position. That's the danger of going under oath, you can make a mistake -- please let me finish.

CUOMO: Please, go ahead.

GIULIANI: You can make a mistake -- you can make a mistake, and then if you don't -- if you want to, you could say takes lie, but it was a mistake. I swear to God it was a mistake. The guy made a mistake.


BERMAN: He swears to god after laughing at the truth, I submit, Wes Lowery, there. But it's interesting. Even after we have heard repeatedly from the White House and its people that the president did not dictate the letter, even after we heard from the lawyers now definitively that they did dictate that letter, Rudy Giuliani refuses to say that there was any dishonesty.

LOWERY: And beyond that, I think equally notable is in the White House briefing yesterday Sarah Huckabee Sanders's refusal even to acknowledge even discrepancy between the statements. At the end of the day there are people who are speaking on behalf of the president, be it his lawyers, his attorneys, or his official White House spokespeople, someone has been saying something that is untrue.

And one of the things that has been I think noteworthy from the beginning of this administration has been the refusal from the podium as the spokesperson for the nation and for the White House when something has been wrong to correct it. That when there's -- when Sean Spicer goes out and says we've had a bigger crowd than any of Obama's inaugurations, and one that is proven definitively false, it speaks to a contempt for the truth that that is not gone and corrected from that podium. It should be important not just to the press but to the American people and to the world that things said from that podium and the White House end up being true.

CILLIZZA: And John, can I just -- one quick thing I want to add.

BERMAN: Super quick.

CILLIZZA: Sarah Sanders doesn't get to say, no, he didn't dictate the statement from behind the press podium at the White House and then say, I can't talk about it when we know he did dictate the statement. You don't get to deny it, but when you would have to acknowledge what we now know to be fact and that what you said prior was untrue, hide behind, well, this is office of legal counsel we're not going to get in to it.

CAMEROTA: It's unacceptable but that is what she's doing.

CILLIZZA: That's exactly what she's doing. CAMEROTA: All right. We'll watch for the next White House press briefing and see how that goes.

Wes Lowery, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

Up next, Melania Trump is back in the public eye. What her office is saying about the 24 days where she was not seen in public?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, fast moving lava making its way into the water now in Hawaii. See the serious hazard it is causing, remarkable pictures. Live report next.


CAMEROTA: Special counsel Robert Mueller's team is accusing Paul Manafort of tampering with witnesses. They say the former Trump campaign chairman reached out to two witnesses to try to influence their testimony.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: OK. So, I don't know if on the House Intel Committee you came across any special Paul Manafort information, but do you think that this former Trump campaign chairman should be in prison, locked up until his trial in July because he's accused of trying to tamper with witnesses before his trial?

QUIGLEY: Well, there are provisions in the law that take care of this sort of thing. Obviously, there were conditions of his bail that he couldn't break the law while he's out of jail pending trial.

[08:20:00] So, the judges have a way of going through a process to determine to the level necessary whether that bail should be revoked and he should be imprisoned pending trial. So, I think we let the process take its course. But obviously, this is a pattern of behavior by Mr. Manafort and frankly Trump associates of not following the rules.

CAMEROTA: OK. Fair enough. Moving on.

The president, as you know, says that he has the right to pardon himself. His attorneys seem to have said as much. You tweeted, asserting your innocence and your right to pardon yourself in the same breath. This whole witch hunt thing is really getting to you, Donald Trump. Important reminder you are not above the law.

What is the message that you are trying to send here? Do you think that something is happened recently where it is getting to the president more? QUIGLEY: I think investigations also begin on the periphery, and

having watched a number of these in Chicago and Illinois and nationwide, the reaction from the executive always tends to get more extraordinary as the investigation gets closer.

Clearly, this is a time to be concerned. We used to warn of the imperial presidency, now I must tell the folks, they ought to be worried about a tyrannical one. The Founding Fathers had just thrown off a tyrant, the king.

There was no way in the world they intended a pardon to be something sort of get-out-of-jail-free card allowing the executive to be above the law. His own ability following their extreme examples, what they're talking about is the president could take a bribe and if caught, pardon the person who offered the bribe and himself for taking it.

The president could shoot someone and pardon himself immediately. This is extraordinary talk. It leads further evidence that what the Russians did to begin this investigation was an attack on our democracy. I think it's important for the American public to begin to acknowledge the president's reaction probably is a greater threat long-term to our democracy than anything the Russians did.

CAMEROTA: What do you mean by that?

QUIGLEY: Look, when the Russians attack our Democratic process, Mike Morell called it the political equivalent of 9/11 and I think he was right. But through education we can defend ourselves. We can rebuild and protect our election infrastructure, but what the president's doing here is possibly creating precedent to have long-term ramifications on the independence of the Justice Department, of law enforcement, the integrity and the abilities of the intelligence community to keep us safe.

If we aren't on guard against that, we'll do long-term damage -- damage that will be very hard to recover from.

CAMEROTA: The president is tweeting again this morning about I guess having no confidence in his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. What's the end game here? What's going to happen -- what should Jeff Sessions do?

QUIGLEY: I think Jeff Sessions did the right thing recusing himself. I think Jeff Sessions -- I think what he could add to this, I think he should come back publicly and answer the question that ranking member Adam Schiff asked him in committee.

Did the president of the United States ever do anything, ask you to do anything to hinder the investigation? Mr. Sessions refused to answer that question.

I think given the pressure he's under, the American public is owed an answer at this point in time. What did the president do in addition to firing Comey, in addition to attempting to fire Mueller, attempting to ask him to regain the investigation, why did he do these things? I think Mr. Sessions knows the answers to those questions.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Mike Quigley, we appreciate you being on here with your positions. Thank you.

QUIGLEY: Any time.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. First Lady Melania Trump reemerging last night for Gold Star families that was closed to the press. The first lady has been out of the public eye for 24 days after undergoing a medical procedure.

Our Kate Bennett live in Washington with the very latest on this.

People wondering where she was the first lady, Kate?

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Everyone was wondering. Twenty-four days is a quite long time. And yesterday's event for Gold Star families at the White House wouldn't be such a big deal, it's something very sort of normal for a first lady to attend, but when we hadn't seen her, all eyes were on her.

Even the president joked last night at this event about the where's Melania memes that had sort of popped up on the Internet after her disappearance in public view, and he said, they're even jokes that did she leave him, did she leave him, and she's right here in the front row. It's sort of an awkward moment considering the setting and Gold Star families, however this is certainly something that the White House is saying the media has added fuel to the fire of these Melania jokes.

Certainly, I spoke to Melania Trump's spokesperson Stephanie Grisham yesterday and she told me in a statement: Mrs. Trump has always been a strong and independent woman who puts her family and certainly her health above all else and that won't change over a rabid press corps.

[08:25:15] She's confident in who she is, what she is doing and in her role, and knows the rest is just speculation and nonsense.

Now, I would argue, that is not just the media, in fact, most of the country was wondering where their first lady was, right, left, center. Everyone was sort of speculating after the disappearance of Melania for such a long period of time. However, she is an independent. This is a first lady who calls the shots.

She did have a medical procedure that kept her in the hospital for five days. We hope she's doing better. We expect to see her more -- have a more public schedule in the weeks to come.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, right, Kate, and why were we the bad guys for wondering about her health and wondering if she was OK?

It's good to see her and she looks well. So, thank you, Kate, for the update there.


CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, the devastation in Hawaii is intensifying this morning. There's fast moving lava. It's pouring into the ocean and that creates hazardous conditions. So, we have a live report for you, next.


BERMAN: It is a huge political day. Primaries in eight states including California, and is California that could make or break Democratic dreams of taking back the House?